Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reconciling Paul's Different Uses of the Term "Dogma" in Ephesians 2:15 and Colossians 2:14

"by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances [dogmasin], that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace," Eph 2.15 (ESV) 
"by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands [dogmasin]. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross," (Col. 2.14)

Is Paul using "dogma" in Eph. 2.15 in the same way that the Apocrypha uses "ton patrion dogmaton" to refer to Jewish ancestral traditions--specifically those that are designed to limit socialization between Jews and non-Jews (see footnote 45 of Hegg's "The 'Dividing Wall' in Ephesians 2:14" which cites to m.Pes. 8:8; m.Shek. 8:1; T.YomHaKipp. 4:20; Josephus, Ant. xviii, 90; Acts 10:28).

Yet, if this is the case, how can Paul be referring to Jewish ancestral traditions in Colossians 2.14?  Col. 2.14 would not make sense if it read as:

"by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its [Jewish ancestral traditions]"

I believe McKee has found the key to reconciling these different usages of "dogma":

"The two classical definitions of dogma we have to consider are 'that which seems to one, an opinion, dogma,' and 'a public decree, ordinance' (LS).  It is not inappropriate for us to consider how in Colossians 2:14, Paul first could have used dogma (as public decree, ordinance) to describe the condemning aspects of the Torah that have been erased via the shed blood of the Lord.  Later in composing Ephesians, dogma (as opinion) could have been used to describe condemning injunctions passing themselves off as Torah, keeping people separated..." pg. 65 of Colossians and Philemon for the Practical Messianic.

In other words, Paul, in Col. 2.14, might be using "dogma" in a general legal sense to refer to the penalties prescribed in the Torah for disobedience and, in Eph. 2.14, might be using "dogma" in a more specific sense to refer to specific Jewish traditions which were designed to limit socialization between Jews and non-Jews.

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